Two Men and a Truck Franchisee - Heidi Walsh

Date: JUN 18th, 2010

Topic: Franchise Spotlight

A Woman, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®

Through rain, sleet or snow: Heidi Walsh’s first year has her moving toward even greater franchising success

By Gina Makkar

The first year of a franchise is like starting a relationship. It offers possibilities, goes through stages, and changes with the confidence, ability, and belief in its success.  It often determines your standards, your reputation, and can forecast where your company is headed.
So what are the day-to-day realities of the first year in business? Heidi Welsh, a London, Ontario franchisee of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® , has some insights and terrific advice to help you through your first year and place you on the road to success.
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®  bills itself as the first and largest moving franchise system in North America.  They provide local and regional moving services to residential, industrial, and commercial customers and other services including packing, unpacking, and providing moving supplies such as boxes and packing materials.

The concept was originally founded in 1985 in Lansing, Michigan by Mary Ellen Sheets. It started as a way for her sons Jon and Brig Sorber to earn money while going to school. From there, Sheets developed a system and began franchising in 1989. She even created the original stick-men logo that still adorns the fleet of trucks. Almost 20 years later, the company has more than 200 franchise locations in the United States and Canada.

When Welsh decided to start her own business with her husband Brent, the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®  franchise was a natural choice. As the Office Manager for one of the franchise locations in Akron Ohio, she was already familiar with the business model and its success rate in the United States.  Welsh says “I’m a Canadian and wanted to move back so when we found out that the franchise was coming to Canada, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

With husband Brent’s finance experience as a stock trader and her knowledge of the business, Welsh says they strike a nice balance.

She says that while franchisees don’t need experience in moving or trucking to invest in the franchise, they do need excellent customer service and organization skills. She also says the system is based on solid customer relations, the management of people and schedules, and the ability to follow common-sense business practices. “The entire business rotates around satisfying your customer. It’s our job to understand the stress level of the people who are relocating and to educate the customer on what to expect on moving day.”

New franchisees attend a two week training session at STICK MEN UNIVERSITY®  in Lansing, Michigan where they’re trained on everything from financing the start up to running daily operations. That training is then followed up with a one week training period in the franchisee’s new office location.

Welsh says that staying ahead of the competition starts with the frontline employees and the level of service they provide.

They also hold regular meetings with a Franchise Business Consultant provided by the franchisor to discuss trends, growth, pricing, and issues and concerns. Ongoing training is provided to keep franchisees aware of changing trends, rules and regulations, new products, and taking the franchise to the next level.

Though the first year had its obstacles, Welsh took the opportunity to grow and develop the company when faced with challenges. For one, she says it was hard to retain quality employees who wanted to help grow the company. She tackled the problem by posting available positions on a government website, instead of running ads in the local paper, to uncover better candidates.

She also says they succeed in shining among the other movers in town by developing grassroots marketing initiatives and delivering on their promise for good service. “In the industry, referrals are a huge part of your business. That’s why it’s so important to have quality employees and deliver a constant level of service.”

Welsh says that emotionally, it’s hard to prepare for twists and turns like revenues and employee turnover. “You just have to believe that things will work if you continue to do the marketing, provide good service and grow your customer base.”
Their diverse client base ranges from students to interior design companies and, so far, they’ve enjoyed steady growth since they opened their doors. Welsh attributes their success to good service at a fair price. “Our customers appreciate the value and are willing to refer us to family, friends and coworkers.”

They also offer free onsite estimates and utilize a proprietary software program on a laptop to help ensure an accurate quote. Welsh also says it helps to meet prospective customers to answer questions they may have and allow them to get a feel for who they are and what they do.

Though they’re sales are still growing, Welsh says with the recent economic uncertainty, they’ve postponed moving to a larger facility and are mindful of acquiring any additional expenses. She says fellow franchisees are very supportive and their experience with the Head Office exceeded their expectations. With vendors and suppliers already in place to purchase trucks or set up a computer operating systems, they were able to focus on the important tasks of hiring, training and launching the business. “Someone always seems to be there when you need help on an issue or just want to talk about similar experiences and how each franchise handles them. They’ve become part of our extended family.”

She cites the branding factor as another benefit. “People love the logo and name of our company. It has great appeal to the customers and they remember it. The branding sets us apart from the large van lines and has a hometown feel.”

Owning a TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®  franchise allowed Welsh and her husband to achieve their goals of working for themselves and running a successful company. This, she says, has given them a great sense of accomplishment. “We have retained key employees that understand the direction we are heading and are working to grow our operation with the same core values.” But their achievements don’t end there. Their future goals include gaining market share and maintaining a solid growth rate year after year. As a long-term goal, they’d also like to branch out and offer storage to their customers. This goal, she says, will have to wait since it requires relocating the business to a new facility.

For others considering the franchise, Welsh says the business model is proven and it works. She advises that if you follow the training and core values, you’ll see the benefits in the results.

Welsh says she also found it challenging not to let herself get too excited or too discouraged with any one specific development in the early stages. For instance, “you don’t need to spend huge sums of money on advertising especially not one time things or events. You need to spend regular amounts on the right things.” She advises to track what is working for you and keep it up.

As for women considering a franchise in a male-dominated industry, Welsh says the environment is actually well suited for women. Though the moving industry is based on customer services, she recognizes that it’s also a stressful time in people’s lives, and often, a softer touch is needed to put the customers mind at ease. “Sometimes, woman have the patience and understanding to help the customer relax.”